Tomas Danicek’s Scotland v Czech Republic preview: tired-looking Czechs in need of confidence
Our Matchday Squad journalist will be covering Czech Republic throughout Euro 2020
Spirits were reasonably high in the Czech camp heading into their seventh straight Euros, until that deflating 4-0 friendly loss to Italy.
Then the panic set in, with a virtual public referendum on who should be starting at centre back, and a convincing-on-paper-only victory against Albania (3-1) did little to erase concerns over fitness and energy levels of many key men.
It’s always worth remembering to not overreact to results in Euro preparation, but since coach Jaroslav Silhavy didn’t use these two friendlies to do much experimenting, the overreaction has been warranted to a point. This was a well-drilled side trying to gel even further and largely failing to execute even the simplest of moves and passes in the build-up.
But cheap turnovers are not even the most concerning takeaway. With all of the star men including Coufal, Kral and Soucek looking visibly tired, unfocused and having exhausting club seasons behind them, it’s now legitimate to wonder whether the team is ready to travel the second most kilometres in between matchdays of all participants and still compete well.
The centre back debate is all but settled. Both Tomas Kalas and Ondrej Celustka have shaken off their knocks and have been confirmed as Game 1 starters well in advance to hopefully instill some confidence ahead of a tough matchup with an opponent who typically has their two mobile strikers running off defenders and pressing relentlessly.
Scotland have become a bit of a bogey team to Czechia lately, allowing them to score just once over the four meetings of both senior and U21 sides in the past two years. Czechs have so far only beaten Scotland on their own soil once (1999), so Hampden Park could be a big factor as well.
Having registered a few lingering issues at the start of the camp, the team has since fully recovered with teenage sensation Hlozek and Holes also making appearances in the Albania tune-up game. The highlight of the dress rehearsal was the performance from Masopust who may have nailed down the starting spot at right wing of a traditional 4-1-4-1 formation after all.